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Old 03-08-2005, 11:51 AM   #1
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Default Some basic Kindergarten level questions.

This may be premature - since we have yet to see our first TM in person.
May be able to on March 12, as we are tentatively planing on driving the 135 miles south to Anaheim to visit the TM dealer there, Custom RV.

Here is a totally subjective question I only thought of yesterday while waiting at a traffic light. A Class B (?) type that is one unit, but has the front cab
same shape and design as on a pick up or regular truck; but with a motor-home type back with just one axle in the rear - - drove across and it had advertising telling that it was a rental unit.

It started me to thinking - depending upon how frequently you would use such an RV (a BIG unknown) - over time, would it be cheaper to rent
something like this than to invest in monthly payments of (it seems) $18K up to $35K (the latter out of our reach financially.)

But here are some basic curiosity questions we are discussing, in the light of us thinking we may be future travel trailer (or TM ) owners and users:

1) How much insurance is recommended for a TM?

2) Knowing the 55 mph speed limit for towing, and being very well acquainted with the never-ending ribbon of highway in the great plane states and across many sections of the U.S. - particularly in the West - I'm wondering if anyone feels comfortable sharing what speed they generally travel while towing their TM? I assume you would feel fairly comfortable (safe?) traveling at this speed. Over 60? Now days, driving 55 mph feels like 35 mph when you're destination is hundreds of miles or thousand or more.

3) How crucial is it to plan ahead: where you will spend the night / where you wish to park.

4) Next to this: how far in advance must you make phone reservations at RV camping grounds? Like KOA, or other RV parking. Do they require a credit card deposit over the phone?

5) How many use Wal Mart parking lots on any regular basis? I am obviously talking of a fairly long trip.

Side bar: Our oldest daughter lives in Missoula, Montana. Our son lives Hillsboro, OR; my wife's only living brother lives in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; so these represent places we would obviously visit, and require - in a car - two days drive (to Montana) from past experience. Driving straight through is
now a nightmare experience, we now delegate to the past waste-basket!

6) How can you tell where it is illegal to park overnight; just to sleep?
Dry camping situation. If "caught" or considered illegal by an authority,
do they give tickets or usually just wake you up and tell you you cannot
park there? Has anyone experiened this?

7) What is the greatest NO, NO! to be conscious of when towing a TM or any travel trailer for that matter. Other than strong winds or driving on ice - - we've lived in NJ, VA, TX, WY, and MT - so we know about snow and ice
by MUCH personal experience.

Side bar: Some highways are so narrow, or have warnings to stay off soft shoulders; so if you had a blow out and had no idea how many miles the next pull-off or safe area might be.....what is the best thing to do? Gamble on your life while changing the tire? Have your wife stand with flags or
flash light 100 feet behind to warn oncoming traffic?

I'm looking for things you experienced travelers would individually or collectively agree would be: Whatever....."NEVER do this!" kinds of things.

Now you have some real "experience" and "gut-level" items to consider.
I don't mean to sound.....or BE....facetious. For us, these are practical concerns.

Thank you, once more! for your patience and kindness in any replies you might wish to make.

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Old 03-08-2005, 02:40 PM   #2
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Default Kindergarten questions

Yes, Leon, it did help. Practical and based on personal experience is what I was/am after. Thanks again. .... Jess
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Old 03-08-2005, 02:51 PM   #3
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I think Leon's answer was a good one. I would add that in this time of crazy folks running around I would be hard put just to pull off the road to sleep. A roadside park, maybe, if busy and well lit. About the only state I've been to where I had a hard time finding a CG was OK, and even there you could find them if you had enough RV guides. If you stick mostly to interstates there are always lots of CGs, if you plan on traveling the small back roads that may take some planning.

We travel the back roads mostly and have found ourselves on some very narrow roads but have always found a place to park for the night (sometimes we got up and out very early the next morning).

I would not put the wife 100' back, use flairs/reflecters, give the wife a cell phone to stand way to the side. That way she can call 911 if the Freightliner takes you for a free ride.

If you don't know if you will like camping or not you must try it before you buy!!! And remember there is a sharp learning curve for most folks who have never towed/driven an over sized RV before. (btw, there are lots of roads that cannot handle the 100"+ wide rigs I think the entire state of NJ is off limits to those.)

My suggestion would be, rent a small unit, try it out on a few short trips, spending 2+ nights out. If you like it in general you will have a better idea as to what you would like in a unit and be aware of some of the pit falls.
We try to stay on better roads (if we don't know the area), park the unit and explore the area. Then if we find a wanderfull out of the way place we can always move there or camp there the next time we visit the area.
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Old 03-08-2005, 07:04 PM   #4
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Jess -

All good questions.

The unit you saw probably said "Cruise America" in big splashy letters? They are great rigs. We rented two or three of them when the kids were small, and were never displeased. That might be your introduction to camping-on-the-road. In fact, we decided that if we enjoyed it so much, we ought to get a rig of our own. When we explained what we needed to a local RV dealer, he said (bless his heart) "you want a Trail Manor". He was right.

Speed on the road? In a dozen cross-country trips, we have learned to let the 18-wheelers be our guide. As we head east across the plains of Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, etc, the big rigs are doing 65-70, so we do, too. When we cross the line into Illinois, then Indiana, the big rigs suddenly slow to 58 mph. So do we. In Pennsylvania, it picks up again. Those guys are out there every day, and they know the "real" speed limit. And if a cop won't stop a big rig, he probably won't stop you as you tag along behind.

Planning ahead? Assuming you are on your way somewhere, and just looking for a place to sleep for a night a two, get yourself a copy of the Big Book of Campgrounds. There are two of them, one from Good Sam, one from Woodall's, equally good. Any Barnes&Noble, Borders, or RV dealer will have them. They not only list campgrounds, locations, rates, amenities, site sizes, hookups, phone numbers, and driving directions, but they quality-rate them on a fairly comprehensive scale. You wouldn't want to stay in a 5-5-5 campground, and you'll never find a 10-10-10 campground. We tend to look for something above 8-8-8. About 2 hours before you want to stop, pull out the book, look for campgrounds in the area where you will be in two hours, and start calling on your cell phone. This virtually always works. Of course, you have to be smart about this - if you are headed for Disney at Christmas, it most likely WON'T work. But that's no surprise. Some campgrounds want a credit card number over the phone, some don't. If they do, I give them the first half of the number, tell them I will call back in 10 minutes with the second half, when I am in a different cell phone area. We have never had one fail to understand our reluctance to give the complete number over the phone.

For the occasional time when I call so late that nobody answers the phone, we go to our chosen campground anyway. Most of them (especially KOAs) have an unmanned night check-in desk.

Wal Mart lot? Never done it. Noisy, bright lights, no hookups, cruising banditos ... Just doesn't seem smart. But your mileage may vary.

Stop beside the road? Not in this lifetime. Put it this way - in the 1960's I used to hitchhike for long distances. Never came close to having a problem. I would have camped beside the road, too, and expected no problems. The world is different now, and I think not just because I am older. It is legal in most of Arizona now, but I wouldn't do it - I've spoken with some state troopers who tell me there are too many banditos, and unlike the 60's, the banditos have no conscience. We could get a better answer from Colorado Cop on this forum, but I'm not sure he is with us any more.

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Old 03-08-2005, 07:18 PM   #5
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the only thing I'll add is to second Leon's advice to call ahead if you plan to stay in a commercial campground or any public campground with hook ups. We've called ahead as early as 9:00 AM and arrived to find an almost empty campground and also arrived to find we have the last spot and they are turning people away. You just never know. It's especially important if you are driving long days.

It always amazes me to see $3-500K diesel-pusher motorhomes spending the night at WalMart. I've read that all types of RV's depreciate (on average) about 2% of current value per month in the early years of ownership so some of them are losing as much as $300.00 per day to depreciation while sweating $25.00 for a campground. Then again, I suppose the 40 footers may not fit in some campgrounds.

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Old 03-08-2005, 08:40 PM   #6
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Good questions. I'll answer inside your quoted questions. Most of your questions are well answered already.

I'm wondering if anyone feels comfortable sharing what speed they generally travel while towing their TM?
I bought my TM 3326 in Indiana and towed it to Arizona. I found the truck speed to be pretty much ideal. I liked 65 mph best. In a car, the trucks are always too slow for me, but with the TM it worked out fine. I didn't pass many of them and few of them passed me.

3) How crucial is it to plan ahead: where you will spend the night / where you wish to park.
Easy. One drives, the other reads the Woodall's book. Then the cell phone call. I often found even better places by stopping somewhere (like the DQ) where there are usually questions are asked about the TM. (Best one I heard was "you are a lot taller than I expected after seeing you arrive with that camper!".) These folk often point out unmarked campgrounds that they like best.

7) What is the greatest NO, NO!
My biggest problem was with the refrig running on 12V and getting to camp with a dead battery. That wasn't a big deal since we were using hookups, but I dread the day that happens when dry camping. My next experiment will be to put blue ice in the refrig and just turn it off when on the road.

Hope you find this helpful.

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Old 03-09-2005, 11:49 AM   #7
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Good questions. I'll give my 2 cents worth using a format similiar to what Bob used.

#2 - I very rarely go over 60 mph. I don't like the interstates even though the studies show they are safer. I want to see the country! Besides, the tires are not designed for long distance at high speeds. You also get better gas mileage (it's getting more important by the day) by staying under 60. BTW - I pull over and let people by if traffic builds up behind me which usually leads to 5 finger waves versus 1 finger ones.

#3 - I like to "wing it". I use "Good Sam" to plan my basic route and make changes along the way by using the net (public libraries are very handy). This is an amazing country when you go out and look around.

#4 - The only time that I make reservations more than a day or two ahead of time is when there are holidays or special events (or places) going on.

#5 - Walmart is my last resort. I've only been caught twice when I couldn't find anything else. They were both noisy but safe (security cameras and patrols). Not bad considering the scenery.

#6 - Like others, I've learned that the refrig drains your 12v battery in just a few hours. Therefore, I fill the freezer with "blue ice" ahead if time and don't bother with the 12v.

I've had my TM (after 25 years of tent camping) for almost 3 years now. I've towed it over 15k miles and lived in it a total of 4+ months. It has been very enjoyable. News reports on what have been found in motel rooms has reinforced my decision to buy versus rent a place to sleep.

I'm getting ready to post some info from my latest trip to FL. Hopefully, it will be informative and entertaining.


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Old 03-09-2005, 10:45 PM   #8
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Default Answer to Rent versus Buy

I didn't see very many answers to the original question: Rent versus Buy.

I started out camping at age 6 months, or so I've been told. I have never rented or owned any sort of RV. I grew up tent camping. I have borrowed my in-laws class A 5 times.

We use the class A for Wednesday through Sunday at a mountain bike race. Having an RV allows us to stay on-site instead of commuting from a motel 10 miles away. We are busy at the race from 7 am until 8 pm. We always pick up the motor home the Saturday before the race and return in the Saturday after the race. That means I have possession for two weeks, so that I can use it for four days.

It takes more time than you might think to figure out what you want to take, and then where to put it. After returning home it takes awhile to empty and clean it up.

My expectation, when our TM arrives in a few weeks, is that I will pull it out of the garage and park it on the street the weekend before we leave to load it. It won't take as long to load as we can keep some of our stuff permanently inside. Come Sunday night it goes back into the garage, fully loaded, except for perishable items.

The night before departure it comes back out and stays on the street overnight. I take it to work the next day and leave directly from work. The rest of the family will meet up with me later.

I expect that the logistics will be a lot easier when I can keep a trailer in the garage instead of driving across town to rent one or driving 50 miles one way to borrow one.

I don't know how long I will keep it. I normally keep my cars for 16 years or 200,000 miles, whichever comes first. I would hope that a TM would outlast the tow vehicle. Amortized over 20 years is only a little over a thousand dollars per year, ignoring interest. Motels are 100 dollars per night, times two rooms, times 4 nights, which is 800 dollars. Plus we have to eat out for all meals. It will cost 160 dollars for the campsite (no hookups). We can do our own cooking. The cost of renting a motel room is very similar to the cost of owning a camping trailer. Any additional usage will be almost free as the cost of ownership is mostly fixed.

I recommend you figure out what your minimal usage will be per year and for how many years. My kids are 24 and 21. You might think I don't need the space, as they will be moving out. Wanna bet? We have a very tight family. Our son is a very serious mountain bike racer. His older sister and my wife and I attend as many races as we can. Usually 6 to 8 per year. We can only camp at 2 or 3 of them. As the kids get even older I anticipate they will borrow it occasionally. I just don't see it in their budget for them to purchase one. They should buy a house first. Fixer upper starter homes start at 350,000 bucks. Hard to find money in the budget to buy a camping trailer.

Everyoneís situation is different.
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